Principals of Leadership
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MUCH OF WHAT IS TAUGHT AT PLI ties in with the
school-administration approach that is advocated by one of the institute's
noted faculty, William Ouchi, the Sanford and Betty Sigoloff Professor
of Corporate Renewal in the Anderson School. In a highly regarded
book published last year, Making Schools Work, Ouchi argues
that for schools to succeed, more authority should be placed directly
into the hands of school-site administrators.
After studying 223 public and Catholic schools in nine school systems
in the United States and Canada, Ouchi concluded that "there
was nothing wrong with the teachers, definitely nothing wrong with
the students and there was enough money." The problem, he says,
was that the school-management system was too centralized, too top-heavy,
too bureaucratic, and "it was strangling initiative in the
School systems, Ouchi says, aren't very different from large businesses
with multiple subunits: Those businesses can only operate successfully
if they decentralize decision-making but have a tight accountability
framework. For Ouchi, the ideal school-management scenario is one
where the principal is a "consultative leader," one who
has final say but consults with the employees before making a decision.
Most important, though, is for the individual school to have control
over its own money so spending decisions can be tailored to meet
the needs of the students in that school.
The notion seems simple enough — give principals control
over their school's budget and let them make decisions based on
their specific needs — but it's an idea that flies in the
face of how schools have traditionally been run, with nearly 90
percent of individual school budgeting typically done at the district
"In most schools, salaries are about 85 percent of total spending,"
says Ouchi. While a school doesn't get to set salaries — that
is done by the district — "the school needs to have control
over those positions" and the salary money. "Some schools
will want an extra music teacher and some will want an extra art
teacher, and some other school may want a librarian who can perform
administrative duties," he says. Allowing the school administrators
to make those types of "micro-adjustments" can have a
big impact on student achievement, he says.
Howard Lappin '61 offers an example of Ouchi's idea in action.